Family Vacation Down Under


Australia is a stretch over fourteen hours away, so let’s just get the only negative about travelling there out of the way, up front! One way to finesse and enhance the journey is to fly with Hawaiian Airlines and layover in Oahu, which we did last December on a family vacation. It was great way to break up the long trip, with swimming in the warm Hawaiian waters before a sunset dinner at Dukes in Waikiki.  The next day, after several more hours of flight, we landed “down under” and soon fell in love with the down-to-earth, friendly Aussies and their adventure loving spirit.

Australia, slightly larger in size than the United States, is too big to take in on one family winter break! However, a few days in North Queensland and Sydney can round out a fantastic family vacation, loaded with fun activities for the whole family, while saving the rest of the country for another excuse to go back.

The Great Barrier Reef draws water lovers to swim, snorkel or dive in the breathtaking beauty of the world's largest coral reef. Using Cairns as a base gives access to the dive operators and plenty of action-packed watersports (the bumper tube rides and parasailing were my boys’ favorites, as shown in photo).

A few hours’ drive north lies one of the oldest rainforests in the world, the Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage Site where hiking and ziplining can be enjoyed while looking out for prehistoric animals (we stumbled on a “cassowary,” one of the largest flightless birds in the world with only 1,200 remaining).

The obvious bonus to Sydney in December is to be part of the New Years’ festivities; however, the real family fun is in the meandering bike rides around the city, the bird’s eye view of the city and the bay while climbing up the Harbor Bridge and boarding a tall ship to usher out the mass exodus of yachts during The Sydney to Hobart Boxing Day (December 26th) yacht race. Climbing up the mast adds another element to the thrill of being on the water amongst the ships, a much better perspective than from land.

If the crowds and heat during the December break don’t appeal to you, another ideal window of travel opportunity is to experience “Vivid,” Sydney’s Festival of Light, Music and Ideas, which transforms the city into the most exciting public exhibition in the southern hemisphere (the 2015 dates are May 22nd-June 8th). Because Sydney’s sunlight averages 6 hours during their winter, artists and performers use light as their medium and Sydney becomes an urban art gallery.

Australia is so much more than Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, but it sure is a great place to begin and your family will enjoy the adventure and fun, no matter the season!

Cynthia Bartlett